Earlier this week, former national basketball player, Vincent Ntunja, from Gugulethu, made good use of the slight easing of the national lockdown regulations, to distribute much-needed face masks in the township where he grew up and honed his basketball skills.
Like the rest of Cape Town and South Africa, Gugulethu under lockdown is a very different place to what it was barely two months ago when president Cyril Ramaphosa announced extra-ordinary measures to help curb the spread of the coronavirus.
Long, stressful lines at the gates of shopping malls and people wearing protective masks have become common scenes. What seemed strange in the beginning has now become compulsory.
The wearing of face masks in public became mandatory under new regulations which kicked in at the beginning of the month, as South Africa moved from Level 5 lockdown measures down to Level 4. But not everyone can afford masks and, considering the demand, they are hard to come by.
As such, Ntunja, who is also a model and community radio sports presenter, reached out to his friends in the film and fashion industry to sponsor masks which he could distribute to free of charge.
A partnership with Presidential Men’s Shirts, the company behind the shirts made popular by former president Nelson Mandela, resulted in a consignment of masks landing on his doorstep, ready for distribution
Ntunja, who used to play for Gugulethu Hustlers Basketball Club, wasted no time in getting the masks to where they were needed most in the community. Of course, he’s no stranger to social development projects and, along with his friend and business partner, Giovanni Freeman, established African Grassroot Hoops, an NGO that uses basketball as a vehicle to reach out to young people.
“The aim has always been to develop kids through basketball and working on their leadership skills and ensuring they become better humans,” he said.
However, with the Covid-19 pandemic threatening the survival of the entire human race, swapping balls for masks, he said, was a small way in which he could help contain the spread of the virus,
“We’re living under difficult circumstances and we all have to do our bit to help keep ourselves and the community safe,” he said.